Ujjayi BreathAwareness and attention to breath is absolutely key in our yoga practice. Breathing fully and using our lungs to full capacity allows for oxygen to be delivered throughout the body, which is vital to our health. Oxygen is essential for proper functioning of the brain, nerves, glands, and other internal organs. When the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, we can experience mental sluggishness and negative thoughts. Proper oxygen supply recharges the body, purifies the bloodstream, rejuvenates the skin, and increases vitality.
In our classes, we practice the ujjayi breath, or the victorious breath. This is a slightly audible breath that you can hear, and perhaps your neighbor in a class can hear, which you create by breathing deeply in and out through the nose, while holding constriction in the back of the throat. Don’t be shy about the sound of your breath– the sound is soothing to the body and will help you to coordinate your movements with your breath. This breath helps you to build heat in the body and use full lung capacity, maximizing oxygen intake.
Place lips as if you are sipping in air through a straw, and start taking a long, slow inhale through the mouth. When you get to the top of the breath, open the mouth and exhale slowly, sighing gently as if you are trying to fog up a mirror. Do this for a few rounds of breath—deep breaths in through the mouth as if sipping air through a straw; long sighs out through mouth as if trying to fog up a mirror.
After finding a smooth breathing rhythm, try to breathe in the same way, but now keeping the mouth closed, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Keep a slight constriction in the back of the throat. You can hear the breath coming in and out. This is the ujjayi breath. Throughout our practice we will coordinate our movements with the breath, creating expanding movements on the inhale, and contracting movements with the exhale.
VinyasaVinyasa in Sanskrit means “to link in a special way.” When you hear “flow through your vinyasa” in class, it will often refer to a specific sequence of poses that we link together with the breath as a transition to the next series of poses. Take your time and learn to move through each pose consciously with the breath. You will challenge your body more and deepen your awareness by learning proper technique of this sequence that we will have many opportunities to practice in class.
The typical vinyasa sequence moves with the breath as follows:
– Inhale to plank
– Exhale to chatarunga dandasana
– Inhale to upward facing dog
– Exhale to downward facing dog
Watch the video for more details on technique, and for a modified version if you are still working on upper body and core strength.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)You are welcome to come into child’s pose at any time during class, even if it’s not being instructed. Taking child’s pose is a great way to quickly rest and restore if you ever feel that you need a break. This pose releases tension in the back, shoulders and chests, calms the body, helps to alleviate stress, and encourages steady breathing.
To come into child’s pose, have the big toes together and knees apart. Rest your belly down between the thighs. Relax your forehead onto the ground. Allow the arms to come alongside the body, with the backs of the hands on the ground, palms face up. Let the shoulders and hips feel heavy. Soften throughout the body. Breathe and relax.